Steelers Salary Cap 2013 (part 2)
In part 1 of this article we looked at where things currently stand in regards to the Steelers 2013 Salary Cap outlook. Long story short, they appear to be roughly $24 million over the cap before addressing their own free agents. Most notably Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Max Starks, Byron Leftwich, Larry Foote, and Keenan Lewis are all free to test the open market. Now we will take a look at what can be done, or more accurately what I would personally aim to do.
Obviously some drastic decisions will need to be made. With lots of cap space tied up in retaining declining veterans while talented younger players are hitting the open market, they need to start by taking a hard look at cutting some big name older players. To start, I'd personally cut James Harrison, Willie Colon, and Brett Keisel. Each is aging, declining in production, and battling mounting injury issues. Dropping these three players saves roughly $9 million in cap space.
Next up is restructured deals. Timmons and Woodley can be restructured by moving their 2013 base to future bonus which could free up another $9 million or so in cap space. Ben Roethlisberger absolutely will be restructured or asked to agree to a new deal / extension. His $20 million cap hit for 2013 is the biggest thing bogging down the cap. I would consider doing an extension to his existing deal where a few years are added on to the back of the deal and more of his current base is converted to future guaranteed money down the line. They can free up $10 million by doing this, and insure they have Ben under contract until he is 35 or so. Three cuts and three restructures can free up somewhere between $25 and $30 million and get the team under the salary cap. If they need a little more room to sign their UFA of choice they can take a look at restructuring or adding a year to the contracts of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. This would spread their large 2013 cap hit out a bit and clear up to $5 million more. With all of these moves being made they can turn a $24 million deficit into a $10 million surplus. That money would mostly be spent on a long term contract for Mike Wallace. His new contract would be likely be back loaded as most NFL contracts are and allow enough leftover room to retain some low-level veterans like Max Starks and Byron Leftwich to round out the roster. I'm estimating a 5-year, $55 million deal with about $20 million guaranteed for Wallace. That is the deal Vincent Jackson just signed, and where Wallace's sights are rumored to be set.
The way I view the Steelers current roster is that they have only 3 elite play makers on either side of the ball in Roethlisberger, Brown, and Wallace. There is no way I would be willing to lose Wallace now. With so many recent draft misses, you can't afford to let one of your big draft homeruns to walk out the door at the end of his rookie deal. I'd throw all of my available resources into locking down Wallace which would ensure the offensive side of the ball remains a strength while the defense rebuilds. With all of the resources the Steelers spent in the draft to replace Burress, Holmes, and Randle El in recent years, it would make zero sense to have to spend more draft picks chasing receivers because they let Wallace walk out the door. Obviously I would spend most of my draft picks on the defensive side of the ball while retaining my play makers and continuity on offense.
Below is what the 53 man roster would look if the Steelers were to take the actions I outlined above. Estimated cap hits reflecting cuts, restructured deals, and UFA signings are listed.
2013 ROSTER AND CAP
|Ben Roethlisberger||1,000,000||10,000,000||11,000,000||*Restructured deal|
|Lamarr Woodley||1,000,000||6,500,000||7,500,000||*Restructured deal|
|Lawrence Timmons||1,000,000||6,000,000||7,000,000||*Restructured deal|
|Troy Polamalu||3,500,000||3,887,500||7,387,500||*Restructured deal|
|James Harrison||5,000,000||DEAD MONEY|
|Willie Colon||6,650,000||DEAD MONEY|
|Ryan Clark||1,800,800||1,199,200||3,000,000||*Restructured deal|
|Brett Keisel||1,675,000||DEAD MONEY|
|Demarcus Van Dyke||1,300,000||1,300,000||RFA|
|Ryan Lee||500,000||500,000||PS promotion|
|Marshall McFadden||500,000||500,000||PS promotion|
|Josh Victorian||500,000||500,000||PS promotion|
|Tony Clemons||500,000||500,000||PS promotion|
|John Malecki||500,000||500,000||PS promotion|
|1st round pick||1,800,000||draft pick|
|2nd round pick||900,000||draft pick|
|3rd round pick||700,000||draft pick|
|4th round pick||600,000||draft pick|
|5th round pick||550,000||draft pick|
|6th round pick||500,000||draft pick|
|7th round pick||500,000||draft pick|
And there you have it. A 53 man roster, under the salary cap. Restructuring 3-5 deals and cutting 3 players is quite a bit of work for one offseason, but I think it is possible. Retaining Mike Wallace might be a pipe dream at this point, but I believe it is necessary and possible. I can certainly see them giving up on the possibility of signing Wallace and instead focusing their energy on retaining Mendehall and Keenan Lewis as a fall back plan. Regardless, they will certainly need to invest heavily on defense in the coming drafts.
Here is a roster view by position, obviously minus any future draft picks or UDFAs:
|QB: Ben - Leftwich|
|RB: Dwyer - Redman - Rainey - Batch - Johnson|
|TE: Miller - Saunders - Paulson|
|WR: Wallace - Brown - Saunders -Cotchery - Clemons|
|OL: Adams - Starks - Pouncey - Decastro - Gilbert - Lee - Malecki|
|DL: McClendon - Taamu - Hood - Woods - Heyward|
|LB: Worilds - Spence- Timmons - Woodley - Carter - Robinson - Sylvester - McFadden|
|DB: Clark - Polamalu - Golden - Brown - Van Dyke - Taylor - Allen - Josh Victorian|
|ST: Butler - Suisham|